At first, a stripper who performed at a Duke University lacrosse team party doubted the story of a colleague who told police she was dragged into a bathroom and raped.
Now, Kim Roberts isn't so sure.
"I was not in the bathroom when it happened, so I can't say a rape occurred — and I never will," Roberts told The Associated Press on Thursday in her first on-the-record interview. But after watching defense attorneys release photos of the accuser, and upset by the leaking of both dancers' criminal pasts, she said she has to "wonder about their character."
"In all honesty, I think they're guilty," she said. "And I can't say which ones are guilty ... but somebody did something besides underage drinking. That's my honest-to-God impression."
Attorneys for the 46 players have aggressively proclaimed the players' innocence, citing DNA tests during a public campaign that has included describing and releasing photos from the party.
Those photos, the defense maintains, show the accuser was both injured and impaired when she arrived, and also support the claim that one of the two players who has been indicted would not have had enough time to participate in any assault before he left the party. The district attorney has said he also hopes to charge a third suspect in the case.
The attorneys claim Roberts at first told a member of the defense team that she did not believe the accuser's allegations. They say she has changed her story to gain favorable treatment in a criminal case against her. They note she also e-mailed a New York public relations firm, asking in her letter for advice on "how to spin this to my advantage."
"We believe ... her story has been motivated by her own self-interest," said attorney Bill Thomas, who represents one of the uncharged players. "I think that a jury will ultimately have to decide the question of her credibility."
Roberts, 31, was arrested on March 22 — eight days after the party — on a probation violation from a 2001 conviction for embezzling $25,000 from a photofinishing company in Durham where she was a payroll specialist, according to documents obtained by the AP.
On Monday, the same day a grand jury indicted lacrosse players Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty, a judge agreed to a change so that Roberts would no longer have to pay a 15 percent fee to a bonding agent. District Attorney Mike Nifong signed a document saying he would not oppose the change.
"It seems she is receiving very favorable financial treatment for what she is now saying," Thomas said.
Mark Simeon, Roberts' attorney, said the bond conditions were changed because Roberts is not considered a flight risk. Nifong, who hasn't spoken with reporters about the case in weeks, didn't return a call seeking comment.
Roberts' testimony could be vital during any trial of the two sophomores, indicted on charges of first-degree rape, sexual offense and kidnapping.
Other than lacrosse players and the accuser, a 27-year-old student at a nearby university, Roberts is believed to be the only other person at the March 13 party.
Roberts said Thursday she does not remember Seligmann's face, but said she recalls seeing Finnerty — whom she described as the "little skinny one."
"I was looking him right in the eyes," she said.
Although she would not talk extensively about the party, she confirmed some of what the other dancer told police — including that the women initially left the party after one of the players threatened to sodomize the women with a broomstick.
The players' attorneys have said their clients were angry and demanded a refund when the women stopped dancing, but Roberts disputed that.
"They ripped themselves off when they started hollering about a broomstick," she said.
The accuser told police that the women were coaxed back into the house with an apology, at which point they were separated. That's when she said she was dragged into a bathroom and raped, beaten and choked for a half hour.
Later, police received a 911 call from a woman complaining that she had been called racial slurs by white men gathered outside the home where the party took place. Roberts acknowledged that she made the call because she was angry.
Roberts drove herself to the party and said she could have left anytime, but she said, "I didn't want to leave her with them."
Roberts then drove the accuser — whom she had just met that night — to a grocery store and asked a security guard to call 911. The accuser was described later by a police officer as "just passed-out drunk."
Roberts said the woman was sober when they arrived at the house. But by the time the party was over, she said the accuser was too incoherent to tell her where she lived, let alone that she had been raped.
"I didn't do enough," she said, tears welling in her eyes. "I didn't do enough. I didn't do enough."
The defense timeline is backed up by a cab driver who said Seligmann called for a ride at 12:14 a.m., and was picked up five minutes later. The defense argues that if the dancers were performing around midnight, Seligmann would not have had enough time to participate in the 30-minute assault described by the accuser.
The cabbie, Moez Mostafa, also said he saw a woman leaving the party in anger, and overheard someone say, "She just a stripper. She's going to call the police."
"She looked, like, mad," he said of the woman. "In her face, the way she walked, the way she talked, she looked like mad."
On Thursday, authorities released warrants detailing their search earlier this week of Finnerty's and Seligmann's dorm rooms. Police took a newspaper article and an envelope addressed to Finnerty from his room, and an iPod, various accessories, computer manuals, photos and a CD from Seligmann's room.
Also Thursday, 5W Public Relations, a New York firm that specializes in "crisis communication," distributed an e-mail signed "The 2nd Dancer," and Roberts confirmed she sent it after learning the AP knew her identity.
"I've found myself in the center of one of the biggest stories in the country," she wrote. "I'm worried about letting this opportunity pass me by without making the best of it and was wondering if you had any advice as to how to spin this to my advantage."
Ronn Torossian, 5W's president, said he replied, but got no response.
"If this person is indeed who they say they are, I would be happy to speak with her," said Torossian, whose firm has represented the likes of Sean "Diddy" Combs, Ice Cube and Lil' Kim.
Roberts, like the accuser a divorced single mother who is black, took umbrage at the notion that she should not try to make something out of her experience. She's worried that once her name and criminal record are public, no one will want to hire her.
"Why shouldn't I profit from it?" she asked. "I didn't ask to be in this position ... I would like to feed my daughter."
Roberts said she knows what it's like to sit in jail, and that she would never wrongly accuse an innocent person.
"If the boys are innocent, sorry fellas," she said. "Sorry you had to go through this."
But unlike her and the other dancer, she said, they have money to hire the best attorneys.
"If they're innocent, they will not go to jail," she said. But, she added, "If the truth is on their side, why are they supporting it with so many lies?"
Roberts is bracing for an all-out attack, but said she's almost past caring.
"Don't forget that they called me a damn nigger," she said. "She (the accuser) was passed out in the car. She doesn't know what she was called. I was called that. I can never forget that."